The Rev. John McCall celebrates with members of Taiwan’s Amis culture
February 24, 2021
When a mission co-worker is invited to speak at a Sunday service, the road that takes them there and the service itself can look very different than what we are used to.
The Rev. John McCall, who has served in partnership with the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan for more than 20 years, has learned that each invitation is different and sometimes challenging to navigate. But when he leaves, he always feels blessed.
In a letter to supporters, he talked about one of those experiences, pre-COVID-19, when he was asked by an aboriginal pastor from one of the pastor leadership groups, he works with to speak at one of the church’s weekend retreats. The plan was to speak on Saturday afternoon and preach on Sunday morning. He was told to take the mass transit system to the last station and a church member would pick him up.
“We left the station and began to wind up a mountain road,” he wrote. “I had taken this road many years before, but ever since the new highway was built, this road has been the road less traveled. I found that it is now traveled by many motorcycle enthusiasts, so on Saturday morning there were lots of people out enjoying the fresh air.”
They arrived at the retreat center, down a narrow mountain road to the river, to meet church members of the Amis tribe, one of 16 official tribes in Taiwan. The Amis tribe is the largest tribe numerically in Taiwan and traditionally have lived along the ocean, making their living as fisher folk. McCall has been a clergy member of the Western Amis Presbytery (which includes most of the urban Amis churches) for 20 years, so he immediately felt welcome.
After lunch and worship, McCall stood up to teach.
“From the meeting room we could see the river and the white water flowing through big boulders. As I looked out at the faces, I saw many folks whom I have known for many years,” he said. “The name of this church is the ‘Healthy Church,’ and it truly is a group of healthy Christians. I talked about the depth of God’s love for each one of them, and how God can use them to be a blessing in this time of uncertainty and challenge.”
Later, McCall met with a young couple whose daughter he would baptize the following morning.
That evening the group gathered in an open pavilion for an evening of thanksgiving and celebration of the Amis culture. Every rural village has a harvest festival, but this group of urban aboriginals leave the city to every year to come to this location by the river to join in traditional songs and dance.
“It was a privilege for me to participate with them in this intergenerational thanksgiving event. Each fellowship group in the church presented its own unique dancing and singing. Then at the end of the evening the chief led all of us in a huge dance which moved us through the pavilion,” he said. “There was joy on each face, and it was a beautiful thing for me to see the way as marginalized people in Taiwan, they embody dignity in their identity as indigenous people and as God’s children. Their natural sense of belonging and community is powerful in our isolated world.”
As a gift, they presented McCall with a new Amis vest and handmade shoulder bag to carry supplies. Before retiring, the chief put his net in the river and the next morning harvested a full bucket of fish.
On Sunday morning, McCall preached and conducted the baptism.
After worship, church members walked among eight different grills of fish, pork and chicken in order to fill their plates.
McCall said when he returned to the city to get on the train, it was with a full heart.
“It was full of the love which these people share with each other. It was full of the beauty of that place beside the river. It was full of faith which is being passed from generation to generation in true and authentic ways,” McCall said. “Every time I am with them, they continue to teach me so much.”
Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: Healthy Church in Taiwan
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray:
Gracious God, we thank you for adopting us into the family of faith. Challenge us to find ways to join hands with others that we might together glorify your name. Amen.